FutureMakers Coalition Hosts Annual Champions Meeting

Annual Champions Meeting

Goal to transform Southwest Florida’s workforce

The 2021 Annual FutureMakers Coalition Champions Meeting was successfully held in person and virtually on Thursday, October 7 with more than 70 in person participants, 111 views on Zoom and 176 views on Facebook.

The theme of this year’s meeting was Talent Lives Here.

The FutureMakers Coalition aims to transform Southwest Florida’s workforce by increasing the proportion of working age adults with college degrees, workforce certificates, industry certifications and other high-quality credentials to 55 percent. The Coalition has grown to over 140 cross-sector partner organizations and 250 FutureMakers  representing business, education, government, nonprofits, philanthropy, residents, and students across Glades, Hendry, Collier, Lee, and Charlotte counties.

Today, 41.5 percent of Southwest Floridians have the education and training that employers need, leaving good jobs unfilled every year.

Chaired by Michael Swindle, Superintendent of Hendry County Schools and Indera DeMine, Attorney, DeMine Immigration Law Firm, this year’s event included an overview and update of the Coalition’s work, updates on Southwest Florida’s Talent Hub, a presentation on how FSW and FGCU are working together to bring back stop-out students to finish their degrees, an update on the Coalition’s continued work on implicit bias and structural racism and the annual update by Workforce Now. Gerri Moll, president, Bank of America Southwest Florida served as the event’s keynote speaker.

Moll announced a $300,000 grant toward FutureMakers over the next three years that will allow them to build capacity and hire three new employees including a manager and two college navigators, working to help connect adults to training programs to bring them back to complete degrees and certificates as well as support partnerships with the goal of securing additional revenue and funding opportunities to grow the coalition’s impact.

Moll said the work that FutureMakers is doing is very personal for her.

“My mother’s education was interrupted by giving birth to me, in March of her junior year of high school. I vividly remember how hard it was for her working two jobs trying to take care of me as a baby, then toddler and later preschooler, while also trying to complete her degree,” she said. “I think often about how much it would have meant to our family to have the support and the resources that FutureMakers is offering which is why we couldn’t be more proud of the partnership with them. I also ask all of you to recommit to FutureMakers and the work they’re doing to make a change in our community.”

Rob Shovlin, advisor to the CEO of NeoGenomics, also made a call to action during the event asking more Southwest Florida businesses to invest in FutureMakers Coalition’s work. Last year, NeoGenomics invested $75,000 over three years to cultivate a partnership with FutureMakers Coalition and support their process for systems change along the cradle-to-career pathway to meet their goal.

FGCU President Mike Martin and FSW President Jeffery Allbritten discussed their Return to the Nest  and Second Look initiatives that offer personalized coaching, navigation and financial assistance for stop-out students to return to finish their degrees. According to data, Southwest Florida has 40,000 stop-outs, a captive audience who can finish what they started, fill in-demand jobs and become the qualified workforce we need.

Florida College Access Network Executive Director Charleitta Richardson gave an update on the Talent Strong initiative for the State of Florida and shared data illustrating the changing demographics among the State’s workforce to require a focus on equity to meet employer demands.  She touted community partnerships, like the FutureMakers Coalition, and a focus on equitable access and opportunity as two of the key conditions needed to succeed.

The Equity Action team shared FutureMakers Coalition’s equity imperative, developed in direct response to Southwest Florida’s education outcome disparities, and the FutureMakers Equity Action Team’s conversations about structural racism and implicit bias, both efforts critical to reaching the 55 percent goal, creating a stronger economy and better future for Southwest Florida. To date, FutureMakers has held these conversations, reaching more than 1,200 in our region.

Workforce Now, a research initiative that studies the regional workforce and education gave an update to their Outcomes Report including where the region was before Covid-19 vs. now and an overview of the impact, industry and structural changes, where we are in terms of recovery and opportunities ahead.

Workforce Now is comprised of researchers from Florida Gulf Coast University, Hodges University and Florida SouthWestern State College, all FutureMakers Coalition partners. The full study can be downloaded at fgcu.edu/wfn

The Champions Team plays a pivotal role in the Coalition’s success. Team members include regional leaders who have the ability to create a stronger workforce and vibrant economy by improving cradle-to-career opportunities for students, offering job training and certifications, employee educational incentives and more.

FutureMakers Coalition is a regional collective impact initiative that has been designated a Talent Hub by Lumina Foundation in partnership with The Kresge Foundation to support local efforts to increase educational attainment. Formed in 2015 around existing regional collaborations, the Coalition is committed to creating a cradle-to-career pathway to ensure success for traditional students and adult learners. FutureMakers Coalition was one of Lumina Foundation’s 75 national Community Partners in Attainment and is a member of the National Talent Network. Collaboratory provides backbone/administrative support to FutureMakers Coalition.

FutureMakers Coalition encourages businesses to join and invest in sustaining this community-changing initiative by visiting https://www.futuremakerscoalition.com or emailing Tessa LeSage at [email protected]. Contributions can be made online by visiting tinyurl.com/y2ktnpgz.